Power up the gridBy Beth Parker
Electrical power comes to us through an electric power grid. The grid starts at a power generating system, which sends out the converted energy into a flow of electrons—electricity. The handoff from electrical transmission to electrical distribution usually happens at one of many substations. (You may have seen some of these older substations in Toronto, disguised as houses, in residential areas.) The substations take power from transmission-level voltages and distribute it to hundreds of thousands of miles of lower voltage distribution lines. From there it reaches our homes and businesses through meters.
The original “power grids” were local, for example, a power generation plant constructed at Niagara Falls would supply a specific area with electricity. But over the years, individual grids have been connected together, which means our electrical power comes from many sources. In Ontario, about 26% of our energy comes from water, the other sources are nuclear, coal and oil, natural gas—and increasingly, wind, solar and biomass.
The power grid for Toronto Hydro is extremely complex. It continues to expand, change, undergo upgrades and maintenance in order to meet growing and evolving needs. Two of the biggest challenges in recent history have been the move to conserve energy and the commitment to reduce carbon emissions. Smart Meters that wirelessly communicate with utility centres so both the utility and the consumer can better manage and track the amount of energy consumed have been introduced in Toronto homes.
The Smart Meters used by Toronto Hydro measure the energy used in a home every hour and wirelessly relay the information collected to a neighborhood station. This information is then sent to a larger, citywide station, which collects and verifies the data, sending information back to the neighborhood station regarding energy usage and electricity supply.
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